Friday, October 12, 2018

Clichés of Disability in Poetry

Blind, she made my heart stumble, starless.
Losing her, an amputation of my soul rendering me mute. 
She might be the crutch I'm crazy for.
Knocking me out like a bipolar boxer.  
A paralyzed being, helpless.

Abled poets will say there are many things wrong with the hackneyed (almost nonsensical) lines above.  However, few will point out the disability imagery as a flaw unless it's to mention the overabundance.  Disability and neurodivergence in poetry isn't just fair game, it's often celebrated.  Ten minutes of an Internet search yields dozens of examples of abled poets using our conditions. 

As abled writers mainly composing for other ableds, each word or phrase goes to ableist, societal default.  Does someone trip when they see the person they desire?  Lust blinds them because blind people can't navigate and often falter!  Do you feel like you can't go on without someone?  They're your crutch!  They make you insane.

Because our disabilities, divergences, and conditions are frequently made into metaphor, they become cliché by themselves.  How long do people use something before it's old and trite?  How many times did we have a part of us repeated back to us until it emerged as boring and lifeless?  

And yet, people still do it.  They are still celebrated for penning metaphors with a sprinkle of disability imagery that only means the default because society doesn't know anything else. They don't want to reach for new comparisons and language.  They're comfortable with their hands around our belongings, and they sure as hell don't want to listen when we give them new words to their worn-out phrases.

I'm not saying I don't believe ableds should be barred from using disability and neurodivergence in their poetry, but merely that they should be mindful of what they're actually saying when they allude to something.  They should know who they might impact and why.  They should listen to us.  And, if they can't do those simple things, they should leave our terminology, conditions, and identities alone.

We are not their metaphors.

In the interest of total transparency, I've used imagery in my poetry that doesn't belong to me.  I try not to.

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